Pendants with Hebrew prayer uncovered at site of Nazi death camp in Poland

“This moving discovery reminds us once again of the importance of settlement in our land and our obligation to reveal the past, to know it and to learn from it.”

By World Israel News Staff

Over the past decade, archaeological excavations in the Nazi Sobibor death camp in Poland have uncovered three pendants bearing depictions of Moses and the tablets of the Law opposite the Hebrew prayer “Shema Yisrael” (“Hear O Israel”).

The excavations were directed by Wojciech Mazurek from Poland, Yoram Haimi from the Israel Antiquities Authority and Ivar Schute from Holland, with the assistance of local residents.

The metal pendants, inscribed by hand, are different from one another. Over the past year, researchers have identified their origin in eastern Europe: from Lviv in Ukraine, and from Poland and Czechoslovakia.

“Little is known about the stories behind the pendants, which are heartbreaking,” said archaeologist Yoram Haimi of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“It has been possible to identify a kind of tradition or fashion among the Jewish communities of eastern Europe with pendants that were inscribed with ‘Shema Yisrael’ on one side and a depiction of Moses and the tablets of the Law on the opposite side,” he said.

“But were they distributed in synagogues by local Jewish communities or possibly produced for individual orders? Research of the pendants is ongoing.”

One of the three pendants was discovered in the archaeological excavations in the remains of the building where victims were undressed before being led to the gas chambers. Over the floor of the building were scattered dozens of women’s hairpins and jewelry as well as a pendant.

Another pendant, on which Latin numbers were inscribed on the tablets of the Law, was uncovered. A third pendant, on which only the side with the inscribed prayer survived, was discovered next to a mass grave.

“The personal and human aspect of the discovery of these pendants is chilling. They represent a thread running between generations of Jews – actually a thick thread, thousands of years old, of prayer and faith,” said Eli Eskozido, director of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“This moving discovery reminds us once again of the importance of settlement in our land and our obligation to reveal the past, to know it and to learn from it,” he added.

“I congratulate IAA archaeologist Yoram Haimi for his initiative in excavating the extermination camp and making the Holocaust tangible in the face of hatred and Holocaust denial.”